Chief social workers and Zahawi condemn abuse of practitioners in wake of Arthur murder

Letter to profession acknowledges difficulties for practitioners created by 'collective public shock' about cruelty meted out to boy by father and stepmother

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (photo: West Midlands Police)

The chief social workers and the education secretary have condemned abuse levelled at practitioners in the wake of the Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case.

In a letter to the profession, Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo acknowledged that the “collective public shock about the cruel treatment to which Arthur was subjected” had created “a difficult context” for social workers’ practice.

They referenced remarks by education secretary Nadhim Zahawi in his statement to Parliament yesterday on the government’s response to the circumstances behind Arthur’s murder, condemning the abuse of professionals.

‘No professional should experience abuse’

“Those already serving our country’s most vulnerable children deserve our thanks, and I want to be extremely clear that no safeguarding professional should be the victim of abuse,” said Zahawi. “The targeting of individuals is wrong and helps nobody, but that does not mean we should not seek to understand what went wrong and how we can stop it happening again.”

Chief social worker for children and families Trowler and Romeo, her adults’ equivalent, told social workers: “We want to reiterate this message. The part you play in supporting and protecting the country’s most vulnerable children, adults and families makes a positive difference each and every single day.

We condemn those targeting abuse towards individuals and the social work profession.”

More details on Arthur reviews

In his statement to the House of Commons, Zahawi set out more details on the national review into Arthur’s case and the inspection of Solihull services he had commissioned following the jailing of Arthur’s killers.

He said timelines and terms of reference would be published later this week, but confirmed that the national review, by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, would be led by its chair, Annie Hudson. She is the former director of children’s services at Lambeth and Bristol councils, and was chief executive of the former College of Social Work.

Zahawi said: “Annie and her colleagues on the national panel, who come from the police, health and children’s services, have dedicated their lives and decades-long careers to bettering the lives of the most vulnerable children in our society. I have every faith that their review will be robust, vigorous and thorough. I have already assured Annie, as I assure you now, Mr Speaker, that she will be given all the support she needs to do the job properly.”

Inspection to focus on entry to child protection

On the joint targeted area inspection of Solihull, involving Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the police and probation inspectorates, Zahawi said this would have a “sharp focus on the entry point to the child protection system across all agencies”.

He said the inspectorates would start work next week, adding: “As part of this inspection, all the agencies tasked with protecting children at risk of abuse and neglect in Solihull will have their effectiveness considered, and be instructed on where improvements must be made in Solihull and where learnings can be applied in other areas around the country.”

Zahawi also strongly backed the government-commissioned review of children’s social care, led by Josh MacAlister, in providing an effective response to improving child protection.

He said he was “confident that the review will deliver recommendations that I hope we can be ambitious about and deliver rapidly”.

Calls to boost resources and cut bureaucracy

In questions following his statement yesterday, Zahawi was pressed repeatedly by MPs about the need to boost resources for children’s services, including to lower social work caseloads, and to cut bureaucracy for practitioners.

The education secretary said both would be addressed by the care review, and that he was keen to cut bureaucracy and would consider seriously recommendations from MacAlister for more resource.

“Importantly, the review will look at how social workers, especially those with the most experience, can spend time with families and on protecting children,” he added. “We all know that social workers do their best work with families, not behind a desk.”

On resource, Zahawi cited the fact that councils’ spending power – the maximum amount available to them to spend – was due to go up by 3% a year in real terms from 2022-25 under the government’s spending review.

This is dependent on authorities raising council tax by 3% per year (1% of which would be ring-fenced for adult social care) and takes into account funding to expand the scope of adults’ services under the government’s social care reforms. Excluding the latter, like-for-like spending power will rise by just 1.8% per year in real terms, according to think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies.


MacAlister has repeatedly said that the children’s social care system needs more funding, but his contract with the DfE stipulates that requests for additional resource must be cost-neutral across government over time.

MacAlister has suggested that this could be achieved by investing in early intervention to reduce spending on late intervention, and in children’s social care generally to save money in other areas of government, such as on unemployment, health and housing.

Zahawi added: “So more money is going into local government, but, depending on what the MacAlister review delivers, I would certainly be the first to make the argument for properly resourcing children’s social care.”

Minister: too many agency staff

The education secretary also said the government wanted to reduce the number of agency social workers in children’s services, who numbered 5,800 as of last September, 15.4% of the workforce. This reflects a performance indicator set by the government in its spending review to track the proportion of locums working in local authority departments or children’s trusts.

Zahawi said we have “far too many agency workers”, adding: “We want that experience and leadership to be working full time in a local authority system rather than on an agency basis.”

In its response to Arthur’s case and the national review, the British Association of Social Workers England said: “We hope this review explores the increasing challenges facing a dedicated but increasingly challenged workforce.

“We need to urgently address the recruitment problems in social work, encourage more people into social work from a diverse range of backgrounds, and improve working conditions, so that good, experienced social workers stay in post. This will take extra resources, more training, time for reflective supervision, emotional and practical support for social workers, and increased long-term and short-term funding.

‘Vilification does not protect children’

“We are hopeful that the review does not repeat the mistakes from the past where we narrow the scope to blaming individuals and fan the flames of public vilification.

“That approach does not protect children. It only leads to more social workers, who are already under significant pressure that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving the profession. This will ultimately cause further harm to families and children that have a right to and deserve protection and care.”

In its response to the case, the Care Review Watch Alliance, a group of social workers, care experienced people, foster carers and academics that is scrutinising the review, said: “We know from practitioner accounts that there has also been a marked increase in the complexity and difficulty of child protection work during the pandemic, particularly where some children already known to be vulnerable were not seen by any professionals other than social workers – removing important protective layers from these children’s lives.

“It is vital that any child who may be at risk is seen by an experienced social worker who has the time to spend with them, to listen to them, build trusting relationships with them and understand what life is like for them from through their eyes. The pandemic continues to place additional strain on these stretched services through workplace absences, uncertainty, changing guidance and even further reduced resources.”

Warning against family support child protection split

It also warned the care review against recommending the separation of family support and child protection in the light of MacAlister’s concerns about the tensions between children’s services managing both roles.

The alliance added: “CRWA caution against splitting off these two components in the children’s social care system in England. The last thing children and families need is greater fragmentation where even bigger gaps would be created in the cross-agency protective and support services,  if the two were to become disconnected from one another.”

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49 Responses to Chief social workers and Zahawi condemn abuse of practitioners in wake of Arthur murder

  1. Mark December 7, 2021 at 2:43 pm #

    13 years of Tory cuts to local authority budgets.
    13 years of real terms pay cuts for social workers.
    And guess what? a child protection disaster has happened that the Hooray Henries with a sense of entitlement at Westminster are quite sure to find someone else to scapegoat and target for blame rather than admitting their own responsibility.

    • Jo December 7, 2021 at 6:12 pm #

      Well said!!!

  2. Registered Social Worker December 7, 2021 at 2:44 pm #

    I was just wandering as Josh MacAlister is now running a government-commissioned review of children’s social care, does he have any qualifications in social work?. He dosnt seem to be on the SWE register?. I know he ran the frontline scheme for a while but surely the government would have checked all that out as why would you appoint someone with no social work background to oversee such an important scheme for social work training?.

    • Ruth Cartwright December 10, 2021 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi! Josh MacAlister is a qualified teacher. He brought the principles of the ‘Teach First’ scheme to Frontline.

  3. Cath Measures December 7, 2021 at 2:46 pm #

    Strange how the public purse can stretch to the cost of incarcerating abusive parents (£40,000 + a year) but not to the preventative measures required.

  4. Mark December 7, 2021 at 2:49 pm #

    Don’t mention ‘too many agency staff’in this sphere. If it wasnt for us even less children would be seen!

    I’d rather leave social work than work permanent again for the low wages, crap systems, bullying etc.

    Who will visit these children without us, managers? I dint think so.

    Target your attack in the right places to start with.

  5. Social Sceptic December 7, 2021 at 2:53 pm #

    You need to retain experienced staff before you can reduce agency. Recruitment drives are not the answer. Too many teams full of ASYE. Oh, and a global pandemic and inconsistent messages/practice have not helped the UK’s social workers.

    Less cases, more resources get us out from behind the desks. It’s not new information. They are not new lessons.

    • Ruby December 16, 2021 at 9:00 am #

      Totally agree with you. They cant keep experienced staff and majority of the the work is now behind desk due to the overload of paperwork which gives less time to see families.

  6. Kim December 7, 2021 at 2:53 pm #

    I am a child protection social worker and I cannot understand for the life in me how any social workers could ignore the bruises sent to them by the grandparents. There should have been a child protection medical as we are not medically trained to ascertain whether the bruising is non accidental. This is something that ALL social workers should be doing. Bruising on children, especially that on little Arthur should surely NEVER be ignored. I feel that my profession let Little Arthur down and it is about time that we stood up and were accountable. I would have been screaming from the roof tops if this had been my case. Both sets of grandparents were raising significant concerns. There needs to be a complete overhaul of children’s services and there also needs to be clear guidance, which all of us follow, which states what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not. Too many cases are focussed on what that individual social workers values are, and it is clear that in this case Little Arthur was NOT safeguarded. Am I really the only Social Worker who dares to comment about this? Little Arthur was failed and he now has no future, no life, and I, for one, think that this could have been a different story for him if actions to safeguard had been taken. I cannot, and will not, be part of a service where we try to state that Social Workers always do their best, because I have clearly seen where this is not the case. Something needs to be done about all this, before we see more and more children lose their lives or suffer daily. For is that not why we all went into this profession in the first place? I have had managers say to me “its just some bruising, there’s no broken bones” – HOW ON EARTH HAVE WE GOT TO THIS!!!! So so sad. In addition, perhaps everyone needs to wake up and realise that social workers work at least double their contracted hours every single week just to keep up with unmanageable caseloads. If we can’t keep up we are then threatened with ‘capabilities’. I am passionate about the work I do, as are most colleagues I have met, and our work should indeed be valued, but sadly if we do not make changes, more children will go through this. My heart goes out to little Arthur, his family who loved him, and all those who suffer in the same way. Time to wake up!!

    • Nm December 7, 2021 at 6:17 pm #

      Well said!

    • dk December 7, 2021 at 6:58 pm #

      The plain fact is that, other than what has been reported of the criminal trail, none of know very much about the local children’s services involvement with Arthur and his family. Yet you, and plenty of others, feel comfortable asserting Arthur’s bruises were “ignored”. There are also assumptions made about Child Protection medicals, and not couched in the broader context of the procedures around these medicals. You don’t know that one was not considered. You don’t know how agreeable his father would have been to one (and gloss entirely over the fact that someone with PR would need to consent to one), and also don’t know what view the consultant paediatrician responsible for medicals in the area at that time would have taken of any such request. You may know something about the local arrangements for medicals or that responsible agency’s capacity, but if you do you do not mention it.

      Using this as a jumping off point … What do we know that a Child Protection medical would have achieved at the point we understand grandparents had shared concerns? We don’t know what injuries may or may not have been there, or what conclusions a paediatrician would have been able to make about their mechanism or provenance. And let’s say there were injuries, and a paediatrician was about to defend a viewpoint they were inflicted by an adult … What then? Can we know this would have been sufficient for legal proceedings to be considered and removal granted by the local Court? Or that Arthur would not have been murdered by what hindsight and CCTV footage no social care professional had access to tell us was a systematic abuser in one of the 167 hours a week a social worker would not have been in his home?

      I will wait for the review to the publicly shared to understand what could reasonably have been done at each critical decision-making moment in the local authority’s work with Arthur, and will form a view then. We cannot allow the senseless attacks and criticisms levied against social workers make us too defensive to hear and accept any learning that is to come from the review. We absolutely, however, should not be joining in with those uninformed attacks.

      • Kim December 7, 2021 at 7:32 pm #

        I do not know how you can condone what has gone on. If this child had been on my caseload, and indeed the caseload of many of my colleagues, I know that we would have acted to safeguard. Indeed we have acted to safeguard children who have less bruising. This is exactly why children are not being safeguarded as it would seem to me that you are condoning what happened? There is a procedure to follow. In a section 47 investigation, which it clearly should have been, all consent is over-ridden. Yet you make no comments about the loss of a young life, and all the trauma that those who actually did love him now have to go through every day. Which I find unfathomable!

        • Rich December 7, 2021 at 9:00 pm #

          Under section 47 all consent is not over-ridden and in fact in my 20 years experience a consultant will not and has not on occasions agreed to under a medical examination without explicit consent from someone with PR.

        • Gerard Marshall December 7, 2021 at 9:32 pm #

          Zahawi hesitates to blame the profession, senior minds with more knowledge than me hesitate to blame the profession. Yet you Kim a colleague, say ‘ if this child was on my caseload’….
          The social workers assigned to protect Arthur are as we comment, living with the consequences at so many levels.
          I read a wonderful piece about the social work relationship written in the Journal by a service user, a fabulous woman, which I have shared with my student. That person records the word kindness more than once as she related her positive and troubled experience of the social work relationship.
          Kim, kindness. Perhaps you could spend some time reading that piece.

          • Kim December 8, 2021 at 12:58 am #

            Kindness? Who exactly was kind to Arthur? Who listened to the concerns of both sets of grandparents?

            When I stop caring for the children and families I work with that is the time for me to walk away.

            A child was murdered here. Yet you speak of me reading an article about Kindness?

            Do you want to tell Arthur’s grandparents who will grieve every day for the rest of their lives that we are arguing over kindness?

            I care about the work I do. I am passionate about the work I do. I have met managers who are so desensitised to the harm done to children that they make bad choices. But you want to speak to me of ‘kindness’?

            Kindness would be safeguarding Arthur from harm. Where did we do that exactly?

        • dk December 8, 2021 at 10:39 am #

          I think I have been very clear that my position is that I (and you, and everyone else commenting here and elsewhere) don’t know what happened. I’m not in a position to condone, nor condemn, anything. I, and everyone else, really should be waiting for the review to be completed and shared before forming firm views on what happened, the wrongs of what happened, and what should have been done differently. I can accept that. I’d like to think your misreading of what I have said is an innocent one but I expect it is a deliberate rhetoric device to undermine by position by associating it with “condoning” child murder. The sort of bad-faith take I expect from a politician or tabloid journalist, but not a qualified social worker.

          S47 powers really clearly do not allow a social worker to remove a child from wherever they are and have them medically examined without consent from someone holding PR. It is equally as clear they do not compel a paediatrician to undertake a medical. These may not prove relevant issues to Arthur’s case, we will have to wait and see, but it is nonetheless troubling that a qualified social worker would think otherwise.

          Perhaps we’ll get the police state where social workers can do whatever they like regardless of what children, parents and families say. Maybe then all the children will be safe from murder.

          • Kim December 9, 2021 at 4:40 pm #

            The issue for me here, that I have probably not been clear on, is that both sets of grandparents made referrals about ‘non-accidental’ bruising to Social Care. I don’t know if you have watched Arthur’s maternal grandmother on TV but to see her devastation is heart-breaking. I don’t know if you recognise, and apologies if you do, how hard it is for a grandparent to make a referral knowing this could jeopardise their ability to see the child as, as we all know, grandparents do not have any rights in respect of grand-children unless they approach the courts to ask for permission to go to court. I am saying, that if a grandparent had contacted me about bruising, and indeed given me the evidence of the bruising, I would have taken this as high as I could within the team in which I work until someone made a decision to safeguard this child. I am saying this in ‘good faith’ and because I care about the work I undertake. I am not saying that every parent deliberately harms their child, and accidents do happen, but we cannot take, and nor should we take, at face value, explanations, without having a healthy curiosity at the very least. To read that the SW said in court that the house was very clean and well presented does not mean that children are not being harmed and never should we believe so either. Your comments about ‘social workers doing whatever they like regardless of what children, parents and families say’ is at the very least judgemental towards me as I have never said that we should do that. What I have said is that it would seem to me that the concerns of the grandparents, both sides, were ignored, and it would seem to me that they are still being ignored here. I am sure that you will have watched the anguish of the maternal grandmother on TV? It was harrowing. In respect of your comments about using a ‘deliberate rhetoric device to undermine by position by associating it with ‘condoning’ child murder’ is I am afraid too intellectual a sentence for me to understand. I write in plain language sadly. I can say I am not accusing anyone of ‘condoning’ child murder, this is not what I am trying to say at all. But I am, and I don’t make any apologies for it, saying that it would seem to me, and I acknowledge I may be wrong here, that crucial information from those who cared deeply for Arthur was ignored by services. I am also reminded that in previous serious case reviews it has been highlighted that bruising can indeed be disguised. In addition to this we are aware, and should always be aware, that children are often ‘told’ what to say to professionals. The S47 investigation, however I’m not sure there was one (??), should have ensured that Arthur was spoken to alone, and my understanding, again I may be wrong, is that this did not happen. I am sure that all of us at times have worked with some parents where there is ‘disguised compliance’ and I have certainly worked with children who have been told what to say, and have even told me that. I care deeply about the job I undertake. I work closely with children and families to bring about change where possible. I have deep empathy in my role. I also have great integrity. I have been told that these are my skills. What I am saying here is that it would seem to me that bruising to the child, and it is clear from the pictures released that there were many on his back, was not seen by anyone in the medical field. Mother also has PR for the child remember not only the father. However, I don’t believe, and I may be wrong, that a medical was ever scheduled, as it is very clear that the SW didn’t see anything but a faint yellow bruise to his back. There are indeed lessons to be learnt here, and that includes for me too, but really we should always get the voice of the child, and listen actively to concerns raised by close family members. I am also of the understanding that the uncle reported the bruising to the police but they closed that down as they believed that the case was open to Social Care. Sadly it would seem it wasn’t. Don’t think for one minute that I always get things right in my cases because I don’t, but I would never, not ever, ignore any form of bruising to a child as was seen in this case. Perhaps if this had been dealt with differently Arthur may still be here. Whilst we are indeed employed as social workers we have to remember that not always are good decisions made. I hope now that I have made myself a bit clearer. I think it is a wake up call for all of us actually, myself included.

          • J.b December 10, 2021 at 2:58 pm #

            Unfortunately it is social workers like Kim who are so certain they are perfect, never make an error and nothing bad would ever happen to a child on their caseload, make dangerous practitioners. Kim clearly is either not a social worker or is lacking in experience and with her righteous attitude I would be curious on how she successfully works with families. I also believe Kim should remember the social worker did not kill a child. It was the father and step-mother. Instead of gunning for professionals who cannot read minds, it would be of some help if Kim could maybe point the finger of blame at the people who carried out such cruel acts. I would also point out the police also carried out a visit. Interestingly though, all the responsibility falls on the social worker. We don’t know the full story. I hope very much you don’t work in the same way you have written your messages – jumping to conclusions based on a pre conceived assumption.

      • Experienced Practitioner December 7, 2021 at 8:15 pm #

        Well stated I’m in your corner. Let us wait to scrutinise the evidence not lapse into supposition ⁷

        • NW December 19, 2021 at 7:01 am #

          DK and JB well said. I am an experienced SW and have worked in Children and Adult Social Care. One of the things we should learn at the very beginning of our career is not to make assumptions and to follow Evidenced-based practice.

          As you both said, we don’t have the evidence to draw ANY conclusions. We know that children have been abused and murdered, we know that family were responsible and everything else is media-fuelled speculation.

          I read a comment today about why we don’t blame firefighters for a house burning down, which I think is a perfect analogy.

          We don’t blame RSPCA inspectors when animals die, or Nurses and Doctors when people die (well, rarely).

          We live in a society that likes to point the finger and find a scapegoat more than it wants to find the truth and take collective responsibility.

          Kim, You tread a dangerous line not only to make such huge assumptions and accusations about what happened here, but also based on very little evidence and that is something you should be very mindful of in your practice, before you find yourself on the receiving end yourself one day.

    • NF December 7, 2021 at 8:31 pm #

      Absolutely spot on!

    • Helena Peach December 8, 2021 at 3:50 pm #

      Poor comment… very judgemental based on information reported in the media. We don’t know Children’s Services aspect on the case. Let’s wait until the review before we cast aspersions. Thanks.

      • Liza Welsh December 10, 2021 at 12:14 am #

        Even if there’s a scintilla that the social workers were negligent and therefore, are very likely to repeat it again in future cases, that will end in future social worker manslaughter of children, with substantial reported, physical abuse evidence, being ignored?.

    • Ann Crossley December 10, 2021 at 2:21 pm #

      100% agree

    • Retired social worker December 10, 2021 at 2:56 pm #

      Well said and I agree with everything you have said

  7. Alec Fraher December 7, 2021 at 6:31 pm #

    a systemic ‘confusion of tongues’ come to mind.

  8. Carol December 7, 2021 at 8:50 pm #

    Thank you Kim. This is not the first case where reported concerns of ‘bruises’ on a child have not been acted upon by Social Workers and subsequently a child has died. How can Social Workers be trained and so adept at ‘ predicting future harm’ and yet not be able to recognize a situation when a child is actually being harmed? That is what makes people angry and they are sick and tired of hearing about ‘reviews’ after these cases and nothing changes. Abuse is not going to help or change anything but I think it is understandable why people are being so critical of professionals involved with Arthur based on what is being reported in the media.

    • dk December 8, 2021 at 10:51 am #

      I think you you have nailed one if the crucial issues here, Carol. We are not “adept” at predicting future harm. While there are going to be variations in practice, ability, competence etc. between individual social workers, all available research and evidence tells us that the human brain is not a particularly skilled or accurate risk assessing or predicting machine. This is not an “excuse” for poor practice, but rather a dilemma that fundamentally undermines and brings into question the purpose and function of aspects of child protection work. It is a dilemma that is almost completely ignored in our guidance, policy, legislation and academia, perhaps because it is a thread you would struggle to stop pulling on when once you started.

      • carol December 8, 2021 at 12:45 pm #

        I agree there are too many variations and double standards in practice but there shouldn’t be when it comes down to the protection of a child. And it is right that social workers are not adept at predicting future harm but that is what they claim to be in family courts and children are taken into care solely on predictability not evidence of any harm. There has to be a thorough investigation of child protection work and the family courts need to be transparent.

  9. Craig December 8, 2021 at 9:30 am #

    “Based on what is being reported in the media.” “If this had been my case”. Well guess what. Media reports are not always accurate and it wasn’t your case so you don’t know the actualities any more than the rest of us. Sanctimony and sacrifice don’t and won’t remove you from the reality that we are all this system and “passion” is no substitute to knowing something before attributing fault. No reason to beleive that social worker(s) visited, saw a bruise and concluded nothing to see here lets move on. None of us know what was or what was not discussed, how decisions were made, if legal advice was sought. In other words we are ignorant of the facts. Passion that.

    • Kim December 8, 2021 at 10:48 am #

      Would you ignore bruising like that on a child? I wouldn’t.

      • Annie December 8, 2021 at 11:23 am #

        You don’t know if it was ignored. You don’t know if they chose to accept an explanation at face value or they sought advice,discussed and excused it away. Ignore suggests bad faith. You have no knowledge to substantiate that. Bad practice leading to bad decisions resulting in death might be your conclusion. But you don’t know. Pointing that out doesn’t minimise the shared horror we all feel, nor is it knee-jerk defensiveness. I am an AMHP but today was spat at today and called a murderer. I didn’t respond by saying nothing to do with me go lynch the children’s social workers. I tried to point out who was the actual murderer. I understand outrage. There is enough real spit to wash off my coat without this.

      • Julia December 8, 2021 at 1:19 pm #

        They might not have acted as they should but you don’t know that they ignored it. Are you really saying that they just walked away? Unless you know something most of us don’t know everything is just an assumption just now isn’t it? We are all horrified by what we have read and have questions but passion isn’t evidence. If you have any please share it so we can all understand.

  10. Harriet December 8, 2021 at 9:39 am #

    Tearing into fellow social workers won’t protect you from being lumped in with them. We all condemn but some of us wait to know who deserves it first. I’m not sure passion is a substitute for good practice compliant with the law Kim. You might want to revisit your handbook.

    • Kim December 8, 2021 at 10:47 am #

      Harriet, our job is to safeguard children. I’m sorry but if I had received messages from grandparents, or anyone, with evidence of the bruises Arthur suffered, I would have been singing from the roof tops. I’m sorry but I think mistakes were made. It is NEVER acceptable for children to suffer bruises and ALL instances of this should be explored. Why would we all think otherwise? I would not have ignored this. Also, bruising can be camouflaged can’t it? We all must think seriously about this. I might be considered to be ‘risk averse’ but that may be better in some cases. We must not forget a child lost his life but more so suffered terribly. How can we be part of this and think it is ok? It is not ok. Not at all. By the way, we don’t have a ‘handbook’, perhaps it would be better if we did…

    • carol December 8, 2021 at 1:03 pm #

      Sorry but not sure the handbook can ever be a substitute for basic common sense and passion within social care.

  11. Andy December 8, 2021 at 10:06 am #

    I have no doubt whatsoever that the social workers involved in this case acted with genuine professional integrity; I absolutely refuse to imagine otherwise.
    However even within a professional culture which prides itself on its fundamental purpose and capacity to act in the best interests of children brought to its attention, the circumstances of this case (the full details of which will of course be some time in becoming more widely known) along with many others in the past and sadly those to come in the future suggest that almost any child protection social worker could receive similar news about one of the children on their caseload.

    • Kim December 8, 2021 at 10:48 am #

      Andy, the grandparents sent pictures of the bruising to the child. The manager sent these pictures to the social worker. Tell me, would you ignore pictures like this?

      • Andy December 9, 2021 at 12:44 pm #

        As far as I can tell, the grandparents’ photos, disturbing as they are, were NOT ignored. It’s what happened during the subsequent investigative process which is arguably in question. Had the bruising become so faint by the time the social workers actually got to see the child that they provided insuffucient evidence for any relevant professionals to proceed with further assessment? My gut reaction is that the photograph alone should have triggered a very high level of formal scrutiny. However, something caused a senior social worker and their manager to decide NOT to take any further significant action and that, frustratingly, is what we must wait to be revealed as part of the forthcoming review.

  12. Juliet December 8, 2021 at 12:51 pm #

    I wish to offer my deepest condolences to family, friends of Arthur.
    May he rest in peace.
    The full facts are unknown. I refrain from commenting on or jumping on the bandwagon of blame.
    Without wishing to offend anyone, what comes to my mind is, “Here by the grace of God,” go all of us working with vulnerable children.

  13. Mark December 8, 2021 at 10:16 pm #

    Kim, as much as I can make out, no one here is saying torturing and murdering a child is ok. Carol, one persons common sense and passion is another persons absolute conviction that there is only one truth punishable by vilification if not conformed to. Ofcourse there is a handbook. It’s called “standards” and it gets us on the register as “competent, safe and reflective” social workers. It’s a bargain at £90.

    • Kim December 9, 2021 at 4:51 pm #

      I never said that anyone thought that torturing and murdering a child is ok. What I have said is that I do believe that the bruises to Arthur were not taken seriously, nor the grandparents concerns. In addition I do not think there is ‘only one truth’. In respect of the ‘handbook’, yes we do have the ‘standards’, but it is clear, is it not, that not all are ‘competent, safe, and reflective’, as if they were we wouldn’t have concerns and workers removed from the register, and this is the same for all walks of professionals. I do feel that my comments have been taken out of context and that I have been branded as judgemental for making them. However I make no apologies for being somewhat ‘risk averse’ in the work I do, and I have great empathy for the families with whom I work, but in this case, tell me, who listened to the cries of the grandparents? Little Arthur lost his life, I believe that we had a chance to do something about that, to protect him, to safeguard him, and I believe that was missed, and I’m sorry but I’m not apologising for that. I will apologise if it becomes clear that it was not the case. If it was my case I would be honest and open and say where I got it wrong, and I do have empathy towards the SW who’s case it was, but I do believe we missed chances to save him. I shouldn’t be having to justify my opinions in this matter because they come out of concern for what happened. I care about what I do, as most workers I know do, but I’m sorry I’ve seen workers who don’t and who ‘rush in / rush out’ almost in blinkers to ensure cases are closed down quickly only for them to bounce back in, at a much higher case of concern, a month or so later, and it is this which needs to stop. I think that SW’s are under extreme stress, threatened with capabilities when they can’t manage high unmanageable caseloads, and work double their hours often to keep up, but we cannot just say that we got nothing wrong because I think we did get it wrong here. I don’t know what else I can say really. But I can tell you this, if I had a grandparent showing me bruising like that, I would have taken that as high as I could to try and safeguard that child. Why, tell me, would a grandparent make that up? Why would a grandparent make a referral and risk not seeing the grandchild? It takes a lot to do that. I feel they were failed Mark.

      • J.b December 10, 2021 at 3:45 pm #

        Exactly, unmanageable caseloads. And this often has a direct impact on the work carried out. So rather than blame a social worker or an individual, look at the system which social worker work within. Chances may have been missed as professionals are human. And the moment you believe you have made the correct decision everyday and never missed harm – very worrying if you are practising. Shows a very closed mind.

        Were the school involved? What were their concerns. During school closures vulnerable children who were deemed vulnerable by the school (remember they see children on most days) were invited into school and the safeguarding officer was doing home visits to more vulnerable children not attending. Given the school knew the child was a change in his presentation noted and reported. Carrying out a visit to a family is not always straightforward as they can refuse to open the door, “have covid” thereby in June 2020 this impacted on visits so there could have been a delay before bruising was seen. I have been involved in a case where the hospital declined to carry out an X-ray and it latter transpired the baby had fractured ribs. So don’t blame individual workers when you don’t know the situation. And be mindful running around saying this would never happen to a child on your caseload because you are human and one day you might miss something. I hope if this were to happen you wouldn’t have everyone saying to you – how could you miss that? Why didn’t you do your job.

        This case is incredibly sad. My heart goes out to the little boy who had to suffer something no human should ever have to go through. But your finger pointing and attitude of you would do better – not helpful. You weren’t there, you don’t know the facts so don’t judge. A good social worker is open to various hypothesis rather than making an assumption they know better.

        Just a reminder, an unexplained injury normally requires a joint visit with police. This requires the police agreeing to the joint visit. Police have powers to remove a child under police protection immediately. A social worker does not.

        Also a strategy meeting if one was held, also requires all professionals to attend and share information and requires consent for S47 enquiries and progression to ICPC. If a child is open under S17 parents have a right to decline services. If there is not enough evidence then CP can not be triggered. The bruising didn’t step mum suggest he was violent? And there was a report dad and step mom were devious and convincing. Not every bruise or unexplained injury is because a parent/carer had deliberately hurt a child.

        • Kim December 11, 2021 at 9:02 am #

          Your previous comment up above that I am a ‘dangerous’ practitioner is insulting and judgemental given you don’t know me or the situation, yet you are saying that I should not judge the situation for the same reasons. I am not dangerous at all, my problems may be I am more ‘risk averse’ than some workers. What I am saying here is that there were clear referrals made by those who loved Arthur and evidence given. That should have been enough. Gosh, if you look at the pictures, that quite honestly broke my heart for that little boy, you can see bruising all over his back. Arthur also has a mother, who had PR, she could have given consent. There may well have been a delay in seeing the bruising but this was meant to have been the day after. Bruising like that would not have disappeared in a day. I know how the assessment system works, I also know that not every bruise in non-accidental, and that is exactly why we have a medical. I am aware that advice has been given to families now that if there is unexplained bruising to a child, as well as referring to Social Care, we have been advised to also seek medical advice…and I hope that everyone takes note of that. I find it frustrating that you are stating I am dangerous, that I don’t know how to do the job, whilst a child has been tortured and subsequently murdered under ‘our’ watch. Who spoke to the child by himself? Who got the voice of the child? For he had a voice, and no one listened except, it would seem, his grandparents, who were ignored. It is also reported in the media, and I acknowledge it may not be true, that the step mother did not have two of her children with her. I don’t know the circumstances of this case, but it would seem that a little boy lost his life after suffering torture, and we had a chance to change that for him, but missed it. I can tell you that this will just make me even more vigilant in the future, as it should all of us.

  14. Crystal December 9, 2021 at 12:26 pm #

    Hey, fantastic news! Amazon is selling crystal balls. I’m getting one for Christmas.

  15. Karen December 10, 2021 at 10:30 am #

    If you say some “condone” something you find abhorrent then you are saying they are OK with it though aren’t you? As it happens I think you make very good points Kim. However, unless you know more than what has been publicised, you also cannot know the why and how of those decisions so are simply speculating like the rest of us. Difference is much as I think there was professional failings, I am not going to pile in until I know. Evidence based social work and all that.

  16. Neil December 10, 2021 at 11:56 am #

    It’s not common sense which stops us from sticking our fingers into a pan of hot oil, it’s knowledge based on painful experience. Passion without skill and apptitude is an accident forewarned.

  17. Retired social worker December 14, 2021 at 11:45 pm #

    The decisions we make as professionals are finely balanced, we can not pass judgment because we do not have all the information. There may have been a strategy meeting whereby a safety plan was drafted, We also do not know whether an application to the courts was made to have this little boy medically examined. The local authority can override the parents or those who hold parental responsibility if the local authority has cause for concern, we don’t know if the local authority were in the process of applying to the courts to safeguard this child. I think we are falling into the trap of blaming the social workers when we do not have all the information.

  18. Pauline O'Reggio December 18, 2021 at 2:21 pm #

    Safeguarding children involves a large number of agencies such as police, health, schools, and whatever other agencies deemed to be necessary to gather information to safeguard children, what I do not understand is why it is only the social worker who is blamed, it is no wonder, local authorities find it hard to retain workers.NO!! social worker wants to be subject to a review or to have a child lose their life on their caseload, social workers are largely dedicated people who go into the profession to help children and families. My heart goes out to the family of Arthur.We should not blame the social workers because we simply do not have all the information. Unless you work in the field of social work no one can appreciate the complex and difficult decisions professionals have to make ,and the lengths some parents will go to disguise their behaviour.If social workers are left to be subjected to abuse, not supported, why would the community view them as professionals who are doing a very difficult job?